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What started as a rescue operation outside Samos, ended up as a pushback

Just after midnight on Tuesday we reported about a boat in distress inside Greek waters east of Samos, Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat and towed it toward Samos, but her all trace of the people onboard and the boat ends, because they never arrived on Samos.

The boat we reported on had at the time an unknown number of passengers, and was in distress in the sea area between Samos, Greece and Kusadasi, Turkey.

We later was informed that there were approximately 15 people onboard, Palestinians, many of them small children. This number was as we now now not correct, total number was 21 people.

When the group in distress contacted Aegean Boat Report for assistance, we were told that the boat was taking in water, and that some people was already in the sea. From a video received we can actually see a person swimming in the sea in the dark, for what reason is difficult to say. From the short video we can hear several small children crying, and someone saying “people in the water please call someone”.

Both Greek and Turkish rescue services was informed, but since this was inside Greek territory waters, Turkish coast guard informed us that they couldn’t go into the area, but had a vessel on standby close to the location monitoring the situation.

Greek coast guard refused to provide any information, what their actions would be, if any, was unknown. We could only hope that they would provide all and any necessary assistance for people in distress in their waters, according to international law.

From the people onboard we were informed that the Greek coast guard was close by but refused to initiate rescue, despite the fact that there were reports of people in the sea.

Later, Turkish coast guard informed us that at 04.00 the Greek coast guard finally rescued the boat in distress and started towing it towards Samos, at the same time we lost contact with the people on the boat, all phones went offline.

Yes we assumed that the rescued people would be taken to safety on Samos, and eventually be taken to a camp, that they were finally safe, unfortunately we were gravely mistaken.

Greek officials refused to comment on the rescue operation outside Samos, and acted as if they even didn’t know about it at all. The following day now new arrivals was registered on Samos, no organization had heard of any new arrivals, it was as if the rescue operation never took place, as if these people didn’t exist.

So what really happened in the cover of darkness in the sea area outside Samos, and why were Greek officials so reluctant to comment, or even admit that a rescue operation took place. Well the answer is quite simple, Greek coast guard had no intention of taking the rescued people to land on Samos, they followed the orders from the Greek government to stop people, by any means possible, to get the opportunity to apply for asylum in Greece, they pushed them back.

At 13.25 Tuesday may 16, Turkish coast guard found and rescued 21 people from a boat drifting outside Cesme, Turkey, 20 Palestinians and 1 Syrian.

When comparing pictures and videos taken onboard the boat in the early hours of Tuesday outside Samos, with pictures and videos provided by the Turkish coast guard from the time of rescue outside Cesme, there is absolutely no doubt, it’s the same group.

So how did the boat, that was without a doubt inside Greek territory waters east of Samos at 04.00, end up outside Cesme, over 90km away, 9 hours later at 13.25.

The answer is also quite simple, they were towed there by the Greek coast guard, and left helplessly drifting, they were illegally pushed back by the Greek authorities.

The Greek authorities explanation will most likely be that they had no knowledge of this boat, and that the boat most likely drifted from Samos to Cesme outside Chios, and nobody would ask any further questions, case closed.

But since I’m not Greek, and I don’t have a perception that Greek authorities tells the truth all the time, quite the opposite I would say, I took the opportunity to look into the matter. It actually didn’t take long to realize that the boat couldn’t have drifted from Samos to Chios this day, it basically would have been impossible.

To have achieved this, the rubber boat carrying 21 people, without an engine, would have had to defy the forces of nature, drifting toward the wind, waves and current in the area at the time, anyone understands that this is just not possible, so there must be a more plausible explanation, and there is.

The Greek coast guard vessel, on direct orders from Greek authorities, towed a boat carrying 21 people, many of them small children, from Samos towards Chios, and left them helplessly drifting outside Cesme.

And not only that, before they started towing them, they took all phones from them, to make sure that this ordeal wasn’t captured on video. It would have been bad PR just before the election if something that cruel and definitely illegal had been published. When taking all their phones away, they also took from them the possibility to call for help, they just left them drifting in the sea without any regards to their safety, all in the name of Greek border protection.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to seek asylum, the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits collective expulsions, the Geneva Convention ensures that no person should be criminalized for crossing a border irregularly with the aim of seeking asylum, and international maritime conventions require the search and rescue of those at risk at sea.

On May 16 outside Samos all the above was broken, 21 people lost all rights of being human being’s by the hand of Greek authorities, they decided that these people had no rights, no value. And what are the guardians of the rule of law in Europe doing to stop this, the European Parliament, absolute nothing, or even worse, they are supporting this cruel and inhumane practice, funding the Greek authorities campaign against vulnerable people on the move.

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, is the most visible part of this support, supporting Greek authorities violate international laws and human rights in the Aegean Sea. In this video, that was taken outside Lesvos Saturday 22 April 2023, involving a boat carrying 17 Afghans and a vessel from Portuguese Frontex ID number UAM 651 stationed on Lesvos. Frontex stoped the boat, and handed them over to the Greek coast guard, who then forced the boat back to Turkish waters.

The boat was later this day picked up by Turkish coast guard and taken back to Turkey.

Portuguese Frontex didn’t file a report on this incident, as they are required to do, why they didn’t report this incident we can only speculate, but that Frontex still is deeply involved in Pushbacks, and are doing everything they can to cover it up, I have no doubt.

Since March 2020 Greek authorities, supported by Frontex, have violated the rights of almost 60.000 men, women and children in the Aegean Sea, in over 2.200 registered pushback cases. It’s time to stop this madness, it’s time to restore human dignity and the rule of law in Greece.

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